Sunset descends upon Victoria, as seen from the Ogden Point breakwater. Courtesy Greater Victoria Harbour Authority

TESS VAN STRAATEN: Marine magic at play in James Bay

Ogden Point and Fisherman’s Wharf are destinations for locals and visitors alike

By Tess van Straaten

Monday Magazine columnist

It’s one of those perfect weekend afternoons and I’m spending it in one of my favourite spots – walking along the Ogden Point breakwater. Growing up in James Bay, I’ve spent hours exploring along the water here and I never tire of the view.

“Every day of the year this place provides such incredible views,” says Breakwater Café & Bistro co-owner Michael Helm. “We get amazing sunrises and sunsets and incredible views of the Olympic Mountains.”

Tess van Straaten

As I walk my dog, Bella, along the 700-metre cement walkway jutting into the Salish Sea, I’m amazed at how many people are here. It’s not yet cruise season or the busy summer tourist season and the walkway is packed.

“It’s all ages and all abilities, plus dogs,” explains Brian Cant of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA), which is responsible for Ogden Point. “Last year, we estimate there were 400,000 trips along the breakwater.”

While there aren’t exact numbers, those who frequent the area say it’s clear the number of people using the more than 100-year-old breakwater has greatly increased since safety railings were installed a few years ago.

“It has become noticeably busier on the pier,” says Helm. “The railings allow everyone to go out and take advantage of the breakwater.”

The spot’s popularity is one of the reasons the Breakwater Café embarked on a significant renovation this year, doubling the size of the kitchen and streamlining service with a takeout side and a full-service restaurant.

“We have a new 125-seat tasting room downstairs that we’re keeping open while we do renovations upstairs,” explains Helm, who anticipates construction will be done by early May. “It’s been great to see locals come down and discover our new restaurant/bar/patio.”

Helm’s also gearing up for a new season of the Breakwater Barge, the GVHA’s live music and event area. It’s open every Friday from late May to the end of September. After grabbing a coffee, we walk along Dallas Road to Fisherman’s Wharf, another spot that’s exploded in popularity in the last few years.

“It’s become a draw because it continues to evolve,” says Cant, pointing out there are now licensed patios at Fisherman’s Wharf. “It meets the needs and desires of locals and visitors, offering great dining spots, activities and quick access to the city.”

Billed as a unique marine destination, Fisherman’s Wharf has transformed from a run-down fishing boat dock to a must-see destination. You can grab sushi or tacos or the famous fish and chips from Barb’s Fish & Chips, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, and watch seals playing in the harbour, sea planes taking off and landing, kayakers paddling by and all manner of boats coming and going.

My favourite thing to do here, which I’ve been doing since I was a kid, is wandering up and down the docks. It’s something I now do with my children, checking out all the fishing boats that still call this place home, marveling in the compact and creative house boat designs, and taking in the marine magic.



editor@mondaymag.com

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The Ogden Point breakwater and the Breakwater Barge (centre), host to musical events in summer, are two popular attractions in James Bay. Photo by Tess van Straaten

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